Celebrity Makeup Artist Lauren Andersen Shares Her Beauty Secrets

How she creates red carpet-ready skin and how to find your signature beauty look.
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Michelle Villett
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How she creates red carpet-ready skin and how to find your signature beauty look.
Lauren Andersen makeup artist

I have a HUGE girl crush on Lauren Andersen. The Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist and global spokesperson for Avon was in Toronto a few months back to meet the Canadian press, and I totally fell in love with not only her low-key, California-girl approach to beauty, but also her seriously cool personal style.

I assure you that she's just as gorgeous in person as in her press shot above—and the way she changes up her hair and makeup? Amazing. And so inspiring. I took this pic at the event, where she wore this incredible fuchsia lipstick:

Lauren Andersen makeup artist - Toronto Avon event, 2013

Then I pretty much begged the publicist to let me come back the next day to interview her. (THANK YOU, Kristin!) Here she is with Lauren, who is doing a red lip, bangs and top knot less than 24 hours later:

Lauren Andersen makeup artist - Toronto, 2013

So gorgeous, right? (You don't see me in this photo because I had a horrible cold that day and I've learned my lesson about getting in pictures with models and/or people that look like them. Unless I'm feeling super-presentable, not the best thing for the ol' self-esteem!)

I should also tell you that Lauren has quite the celebrity client roster. She has worked with Jessica Alba, Nicole Richie, Jaime King, Eva Mendes, Madonna, Ali Larter, Allison Williams, Kim Kardashian, Rashida Jones, Mindy Kaling, Jane Krakowski and Ginnifer Goodwin—and a browse through her Instagram feed reveals a world far cooler than mine will ever be. (She is, in fact, legitimate friends with many of these people. Seriously, go follow her on Instagram now and live vicariously. Although again, maybe not so good for the self-esteem...)

Do you understand my girl crush now? Here's my chat with Lauren about her best red carpet secrets, favourite products and so much more:

Lauren Andersen makeup artist

How did you become a celebrity makeup artist?

First of all, it's about location. I knew I wanted to do makeup and I knew there were two places available to me. I'm sure I could have gone to Europe or Paris, but I didn't speak French and I don't speak Italian, so I'm going to stay in the States—and the two places that I would have the best shot at becoming a successful makeup artist were either Los Angeles or New York. Because I was born and raised 45 minutes away from Los Angeles, it was an easier move for me to move to Hollywood.

Also my aesthetic, I'm not one who's doing crazy looks. My philosophy is having the women feel and look beautiful, and like themselves. That market is more actress, more starlet and Hollywood. Whereas if I were to move to New York, to be successful I'd want to be pushing the envelope and doing runway and fashion and editorial. That's just not who I am. I appreciate it, I love it and I am absolutely inspired by it, but I like to make it more wearable on a daily basis for a regular person. So it just worked out for me to go to where that business was, which was Los Angeles, and get a job, find photographers—anybody who would shoot my work—build a portfolio and slowly build a clientele.

Jessica Alba, Baby2Baby gala, 2013

Which celebrity clients do you love working with?

Jessica Alba and I have been friends for about 15 years. I love working with her because we’re like sisters. Nicole Richie is even funnier in person than she is on TV. She’s got a great sense of humour and is fun to be around. Ginnifer Goodwin has the most flawless skin. I’m really lucky to work with so many great clients.

How do you decide what type of look you’re going to create for a red carpet event?

It’s important to think of the look as a whole. If they’ve got a wild outfit that’s showcasing the latest trends, you need to tone down the hair and makeup. It’s all about finding balance. Go bold in the hairstyle, makeup or outfit, but only choose one.

Nicole Richie, Nordstrom gala, 2013

What's your beauty philosophy?

I like women to look like themselves. I want my clients, friends and the women I love and care about—and just women in general—to enhance their features and their natural beauty. I like them to wear their makeup and not have their makeup wear them. I lean on the side of a more natural, sheer philosophy rather than having the makeup be overly powerful. I do like picking a statement feature, but having it balanced throughout the rest of the face and with what you're wearing.

So you would do an eye or a lip, but not both?

Exactly. For real women on a day to day basis, I don't think that's going to fly. It's a little bit extreme. I still want to see you and your beauty from within, rather than an overdone face.

Ali Larter - Carolina Herrera boutique opening, 2013

How important is skin?

Skin is super-important. If you don't have beautiful skin, your makeup's not going to look beautiful on top of it. It's much easier to wear makeup on top of nice skin. If you're having problems with your skin, you should look into certain things, like stress, fatigue, sleep, hydration. Are you consuming too much alcohol or sugar? White starches can lead to breakouts.

So check in with your diet, check in with your lifestyle and maybe see a dermatologist or a facialist to figure out what your skin needs are, because you could actually be using the wrong products. I used to have the concept that the best moisturizers were the thickest, creamiest and the most hydrating. I would actually get congested and it would lead to breakouts because the products were too heavy for me. So just because it's a bestselling product doesn't mean it's for you. You have to really figure out your skin and how to stay on top if it.

How do you prep skin for makeup?

You should always apply a moisturizer because you want to even out your skin texture. Otherwise if you have dry spots, the foundation is going to sit heavily on top of them. If you're oily, find a moisturizer that's hydrating but not oil-based—because you could actually have oily but dry skin at the same time. So you want to find something that doesn't have an oil in it and maybe a primer to mattify your extra-oily areas in your T-zone.

Rashida Jones, Helmut Newton exhibit, 2013

Does everyone need foundation?

No. I don't think everyone needs foundation. I don't think you have to use it if you have good skin. Like, I have freckles. I want to see my freckles; I don't want to cover them. I'll actually take a facial oil and sheer out my foundation and apply it just where needed. I start a little bit under my eyes and on the tops of my cheekbones, and kind of feather outward and downward. I don't tend to use a lot of foundation towards the jawline or forehead if I don't need it. Then I could always go back in and spot-conceal with concealer if I have a problem area.

What's the best way to apply concealer?

It depends. You can take a tiny brush or your fingertip, depending on the area that you're covering. I like to use my ring finger a lot to press in product around my eyes. If I'm covering a pimple or something that's a tiny little spot, I like to use a tiny, tiny brush. One that has maybe 10 hairs in it. Super-small. You'd even think 'oh, this is for a really delicate eyeliner.' Because sometimes the pimple is the size of a freckle, but it will stand out on your face. So I'll just take a little bit of concealer and the ittiest bittiest brush and just spot-conceal that one tiny spot.

Avon Ideal Flawless Invisible Coverage Liquid Foundation

What format of foundation do you prefer?

I'm not a fan of powder. Not to say that people shouldn't use it, but I feel like powder can sit in your lines and look dry, and it's a little bit aging. So I like to use liquid foundations. You can find different textures within liquid foundations. If you're wanting something a little bit matte, that is available for you. Because I like using my fingers, when I'm applying a liquid I'm able to press it into the skin and feather it out.

What's your foundation application technique?

If I'm working with somebody for the red carpet, my application—because I do contouring—might be a little more heavy-handed than I would do for a woman on a day-to-day basis. Because of the lights, because of the cameras, because of needing long-wear. I'll usually use a few colours to create dimension and contour within a face, because those flashes make people too two-dimensional and flat and I'm trying to make them three-dimensional again. I'll go in with a lighter foundation in between the brows and on the centre of the forehead, down the bridge of the nose, the top of the chin and the tops of the cheekbones.

Jane Krakowski - Emmys 2013

So you don't use any powder to contour?

I'm not into powder. A lot of people use contouring powders, but instead of creating that powdery texture, I'll blend foundations together to still create this shading effect without it being dry or cakey. Typically I'll use a colour that matches the skin but might be a little bit deeper and a little bit warmer. I'll put that through the cheekbones, hairline and temples—those areas that you want to glow and recess a little bit to build shape—and blend the two foundations together.

Do you use a brush to apply foundation? 

I'll go ahead and paint with a foundation brush, and then I'll go in with my fingers and press in the makeup to make sure it becomes seamless. If you're not comfortable using your fingertips, a wet sponge (wet with water) is really nice. It will press in the foundation and also pick up extra foundation, so you're not being too heavy-handed. Also, if you're wanting to add a little bit more with that wet sponge, you can take your liquid foundation and go in and press. It will give you a really perfect and more seamless application. A sponge will make you look a little bit more porcelain.

Can anyone do your contouring technique or is it best left for the red carpet?

Yes. I would do it. I would just do it in a really sheer way. Say in the winter, you're very fair, so you use a lighter foundation. In the summer, you get a little bit deeper, so you're a colour darker. What about using those two foundations all year round? So you're brightening up the areas around your eyes, forehead, chin and jawline, and then using your summer colour through your cheeks, temples and hairline. You have your two shades that you're mixing, but one shade difference so they're not so far from each other and they're really easy to blend.

Kim Kardashian contouring makeup

When Kim Kardashian took that picture of where she contours, she did a great job at showing where the lighter and the darker products go. I learned from Kevyn Aucoin's books years ago. Take those guidelines and with your variation of shades that are very similar, it's almost foolproof. You're not going from white to black; you're going from, say, ivory to buff.

What powder do you like to use?

I like to use a loose translucent. After those HD powder accidents, I was like, never. I'm never going to use this. I actually like a powder that has a little bit of a refined shimmer to it. But super-refined. I never want to see glitter on a face; that reminds me of a 12-year-old or a stripper. I like a refined, really milled shimmer. YSL has a powder like that and Hourglass has a radiant powder. I like to put that on the cheeks before blush. Or just a basic loose translucent is nice, so you're not adding more coverage, you're just doing texture.

I've been talking a lot about Avon's MagiX Face Perfectors. They have two textures. There's one that's more mattifying.

Avon MagiX Face Perfector SPF 20

And then one that's more of an iridescent glow.

Avon Illuminating MagiX Face Perfector SPF 15

I feel like that's something you can do in combination with your makeup or just if you don't want to wear foundation at all. If you want to mattify your oily areas, like your T-zone or the sides of your nose, you can use the Face Perfector there and it has an SPF in it. If you want to highlight, you can use the Illuminating Face Perfector and this will give you more of a hydrated, youthful glow.

Where do you use illuminating products?

I put them where I want shine. Illuminating products are light-reflecting and disguise fine lines, dryness and wrinkles. You don't want to cover up aging with product; you want to mask it with texture and light. I love putting a little bit of illuminator where we start getting those first signs of aging—on the fine lines around the eyes—and on the tops of the cheekbones towards the temples. It makes the area look a little bit more round, so that makes it look more filled in. It actually gives the illusion of hydration and a plump skin. I like it down the bridge of the nose, too, or sometimes on the brow or all over the eyelid if you're not wearing eye makeup.

The MagiX Illuminating Face Perfector is a really subtle shine product; in conjunction with your makeup or on its own, it's great. Especially for summertime if you don't want to wear foundation because you're sweating and the air is muggy outside; the less you have on your face, the more comfortable you are. Working with those textures without makeup is really nice.

Do you have any other tips for dealing with the signs of aging?

Embrace your age. Be less heavy-handed and blend more. Build light layers rather than piling on, because makeup sits in fine lines. With foundation, choose sheer products and apply in light layers using your fingertips. You can apply concealer on top and even thin that with a little water or moisturizer for the most natural coverage.

Jennifer Coolidge, Austenland premiere, 2013

What are your top five favourite products?

  1. Primer. I always, always, always prep the face. I like to use primers on my clients. Not so much on myself because I'm not into wearing a lot of makeup on my skin. But if I'm doing foundation, I always use a primer.
  2. Brow pencil, wax or powder. I always groom the brows, so something for your brows, whether it be a powder, wax or pencil. Eyebrows frame your face and are really important. Definitely groom your brows to give them structure and shape. I like to use a shade that's lighter than your actual hair colour so you're not making your brows too aggressive. You're just kind of filling in and making sure the shape is perfect.
  3. Mascara. I feel like everybody should wear mascara.
  4. Blush. I always have to have blush. It doesn't necessarily always have to be a pink or a peach, but even if you just have something with a little bit of warmth to it, it makes you look more awake, alive and healthy to have a bit of colour in your cheeks.
  5. Lipstick. If you’re feeling tired, a bright lipstick makes you look more awake and cheerful.

Do you have a favourite technique for applying mascara?

I feel like when you're putting mascara on, it's almost like you're styling your hair. You can coax your eyelashes to go in certain directions to create a certain feel. I always grasp the lashes with the wand and get as close as I can to the roots, applying most of the product there and then wiggling it back and forth and combing it through. The direction of combing will change the look of your eye.

If you're combing straight up and out, then you're going to have a more round, doll-like effect. But if you're combing outward and upward, it's going to extend your eye and give you more of a cat-like, almond appearance.

Which do you prefer?

I do both. For me, I have an almond eye and so I like to extend that out. Depending on my client, do I want them to look really light and airy and youthful; is that the look I'm going for? Then I'll comb them up and make sure I'm doing that doll-like effect. Is their look going to be more sultry, more sexy, more powerful? Then I give them more of a cat eye and comb the lashes to the side.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, LACMA Gala, 2013

Do you like cream or powder blush?

Depending on the look, you can go either way. I like everything, it's so hard to say. Creams are nice if you're going for a really hydrated look; it's nice to use your fingers and press it into your cheeks. For fall, I'm probably more into powders because I want to see more flat textures on the skin, stepping away from the dewy, glowy thing and having more of a perfected, porcelain, flat texture. A soft powder would be nice on the cheek there.

Where do you place your blush?

I think it depends a little bit on your bone structure. If you have a narrow face and you're putting blush on your apples, everything is going to be too close and a little bit congested. You might want to pull focus outward and start more under the cheekbones and up to the temples in a Nike swoosh kind of thing. It's a checkmark that starts under the apple and works its way upward, so you're pulling focus outward. If you have more of a rounder face or you have more space, then you can work on the apple and do that slight contour swoosh. And if you want to look like a doll, just pinch the apples.

What's the easiest way to take your makeup from day to night?

You can add black eyeliner to pump up the eye and apply eyeshadow deeper into the crease for a more dramatic effect. A quick sweep of highlighter on the cheekbones adds contour. Adding subtle sparkle to a nighttime look always does the trick.

Michelle Trachtenberg - Killing Kennedy premiere, 2013

Do you recommend certain eyeshadow shades for certain eye colours?

For blue eyes, a gold shadow with a hint of sparkle creates a nice contrast, or you can play up the monochromatic trend for fall with silvery greys to match the cool tones of blue eyes. For brown eyes, I recommend copper and warm brown shades in soft textures. If you’ve got green eyes, I like a deep moss palette with a subtle metallic sheen.

What's the best way to get comfortable with wearing more colour?

I recommend starting with a small amount of colour on a single feature while keeping the rest of the face really neutral. A coloured eyeliner is an easy place to start and you can work your way up to a bright, bold lip. When you are ready to go there with lips, remember to keep everything else really soft. Monochromatic looks are an easy way to play with colour as well.

What are some of your favourite Avon products?

The new Avon colour collection of lipsticks and eyeshadows have been reformulated with Color Reveal technology. This means what you see in the tube or palette is actually what you’ll get on any shade of skin. It offers really true to life shades. I’m really excited about the new lip colours.

Avon Ultra Color Lipstick

The Ultra Glazewear Lip Gloss has the same technology with a colour-renewing feature; I’ve found it has lasted me through lunch and unlike most long-lasting lipsticks, it isn’t dry. The microscopic spheres are activated when you press your lips together, which creates an explosion of new colour.

Avon Ultra Glazewear Lip Gloss

The Ultra Color Lip Crayon functions as a lip liner, lipstick and moisturizer all in one. The roll-up feature means there’s no sharpener required.

Avon Ultra Color Lip Crayon

The new kohl eyeliners are infused with shea and have a smudge tip that makes the easiest smoky eye.

Avon Kohl Eye Liner

The quad colour palettes have numbers stamped on each shade to show you exactly how to apply.

Avon True Color Eyeshadow Quad

What’s your everyday makeup routine like?

My personal philosophy is based on simple beauty. My own routine takes less than 15 minutes. I always crimp my lashes, swipe on a little blush and put something on my lips. Lashes are very important to me, so I’ll spend extra time there. I style my lashes like I style my hair. I build layers and comb each lash for even distribution.

What are your favourite beauty trends right now?

Silver metallic texture for evening and warm, soft and muted shades for day. Metallic eyeliners are a great way to get that look. I’m predicting a lot of silver, gold, eggplant, green and dark blue for fall. I want to see eye makeup that creates a watercolour effect. You can achieve this by applying gold, silver or copper along the eyelid and deep into the outer corners of the eyes. I also like using the Kohl Eye Liner and smudging it to create that 'yesterday’s makeup’ look. It’s one product that you can take with you, where you can achieve a whole look in one product.

If you could revive a beauty trend, what would it be?

A beauty trend that I love, that I want to see more in the evening, and that I feel is going to have a little revival—at least it will for me—is the disco look. I want to see that metallic, shimmery shadow on the lid and softened up to the brow but going for a high-shine bold lash on the eye.

Jessica Alba, NCLR ALMA Awards, 2013

What are some of the biggest makeup mistakes you see women making?

Being heavy-handed. If you have one blemish, there is no need for full-coverage makeup, and you don’t want to be the girl with the foundation line on her neck. I also see a lot of women neglect their brows. You want to have well-groomed, defined brows, as they frame your face.

Are people still tanning a lot? I'm over self-tanning. I feel like there's beauty in every single look and you should stop trying to be what you're not and embrace what you're are. If you've got fair skin, look to the beauty icons that have fair skin. What are they doing? How do they accentuate their beauty? If you have that golden olive complexion, great. That works for you, too; enhance that. I think it's about embracing your skin tone and not trying to make it something that it's not.

How do you figure out what makeup suits you best?

Looking to people that have similar colouring is a great way to start. You could even start with your hair colour. That will set a guideline because that's going to change the whole way you dress, or the tones that you pick for your skin. I remember when I was first trying to figure out how I wanted to do my own makeup, and I have fair skin and red hair. I would always look to what Nicole Kidman was wearing. What is she doing in her makeup? What is she doing in her wardrobe? I would see her on the red carpet and she seems to always be in white. She always radiates and glows. If you're a blonde with blue eyes... I'm older, so I'm like, what is Michelle Pfeiffer doing? You see women and look at them—are they getting it right? What is it that they're doing? See if that works for you.

Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon a Time panel, Comic-Con, 2013

Who are your beauty icons?

I tend to look to the past for inspiration. I don't want to see so much of what people are doing now, but I want to take references from history and do a new spin on it for today. To me, Monica Bellucci was—and is still—extremely gorgeous and one of the most beautiful women that's ever lived. If you are fortunate enough to have that raven dark hair and those sultry almond eyes and that skin tone, take a note to what she's doing or what she did. Kind of like a Sophia Loren look, that Italian actress look I think is great. If you're a brunette, Audrey Hepburn always got it right. She had that full, soft brow, and those playful soft eyes and really sweet lips. I also look to Jane Birkin. She was about the balance of natural, cool, still glamorous but at the same time, effortless. Goldie Hawn. My favourite blonde. When I was a blonde, all I wanted to be was Goldie.

What do you think is so appealing about beauty from the past?

I feel like all of those women didn't try that hard. Monica Bellucci was effortlessly sexy. She didn't look like she was trying to be sexy; that's who she was and that's what she exuded and so she went with it. Goldie Hawn was just cute and funny and lighthearted and that actually played out in her look. She had fun little haircuts and big lashes and doe eyes. Jane Birkin, she was glamorous, she was cool. She didn't throw a lot of effort into her hair or makeup, but was able to exude that confidence. Their personalities really showed through in the way they presented themselves and their looks.

I feel like when you go against yourself looks-wise... it doesn't work. I think you have to be comfortable in what you're wearing and how you're wearing it. I like to play along the lines of masculine-feminine. For me, I'm not an overtly girly girl, but I am a feminine girl. Like today, I'm wearing a button-up shirt with a collar, which can be masculine. But then I'm going to throw it with a red lip and a fluffy lash, because I want to balance that with a feminine attribute. But if you're a real girly girl and you're really feminine, wear dresses and soft pink lips and blush and all of that. Figure out what works for you.

Jaime King, Baby2Baby gala, 2013

What's your number one makeup tip?

Always start light and build up. It’s easier to build up and blend out than to soften a heavy raccoon eye. So start your makeup application with the eyes. Eyeshadow debris can fall under the eye, so applying your eye makeup first allows you to remove residue before perfecting your skin. And always use mascara!

Find more from Lauren on Twitter and Instagram.

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Are you sharing in my girl crush on Lauren right now?
What do you think of her approach to makeup?
Have you tried any products from Avon? (That lip gloss is amazing, BTW—I wore it all summer!)